Friday, 23 May 2014

Handley vs Livingstone - Track 1980/81

Winning the 1981 Wellington 1500m Championship
There are seasons in your sporting career that define you as an athlete. It may not be because of exceptional performances but will almost always involve overcoming some difficulty. The 1980/81 track season was a definitive one for me.

I was still living in Paraparaumu at the time which meant I was getting up at 5:45 a.m. for a morning jog and doing another run after about 6:30 p.m. I was nothing but tired. However, the summer wasn't so bad as, with daylight saving, it stayed light enough to get some running in that wasn't on the roads.

By this stage I had formulated a fairly straight up Lydiard program which meant piling on the miles through to December, followed by four weeks which included hill drills twice a week, then another four weeks of anaerobic work (also twice a week) and a couple of weeks sharpening and freshening. I also liked to race every weekend (whereas Lydiard would do time trials). By the end of 1980 I had managed to shake off the shin splints that plagued the previous season and the training was going pretty well.

Keith Livingstone had moved down from Auckland at the end of the winter season and had won the 16km Road Champs, much to Dave Hatfield's dismay as he had thought that without Derek Froude in the field he may have put an end to his string of second places. At the end of 1980 there was an international meeting held as a consolation for those who didn't get to go to the Olympic Games because of the boycott. Keith was selected to run in the 5000m.

Keith didn't appear in one of the earlier meetings of the season where I won an 800m/5000m double but the next week he was there for the 1500. I got terribly nervous before the race but once underway things were OK. Keith was obviously pretty confident in his own speed so let me lead at the pace of my choosing, which was a pretty relaxed 65 seconds for the first lap. This wasn't good enough for Keith and he took over and upped the pace, leaving the entire field, except me, behind. I sprinted past him in the last 100m to and won the race in 3:56.2. Not a stunning time but not a bad opener for the season.

A couple of weeks later Keith changed his tactics. This time he went out fast from the gun, going through 800m in 2:03 but he still couldn't shake me. I overtook him with 300m to go this time and, thanks to his great pace setting, finished with a personal best of 3:51.3. The next race was like a different day, same story, I just wouldn't let him beat me and he tried many ways. But each week I would go to the track and feel sick with nerves. So much so that I considered giving it away but I decided to stick it out for the season then see if I still felt like continuing after that.

I had a good win at the Dorrie Leslie meeting in Christchurch where, after leading the race for two laps, I let Dave McDonald and Bruce Hunter take over, only to outsprint them down the home straight. I ran the last 300m in 41 seconds.

In the Wellington Champs 1500m I was happy to follow Alastair Leslie and kick home for the win in 3:56.4. Keith didn't run in the 1500m champs, preferring to save himself for the 5000m. Unfortunately for him this would be the day when Dave Hatfield broke his run of seconds. Dave sat on Keith as they burned off the rest of the field and produced an almighty sprint in the home straight to win in 14:23.1. I was beaten into second place in the 800m by Brian Turnbull who had a habit of running an opening lap in around 52 seconds (quicker than my fastest 400) and holding on. I did run a PB of 1:54.7 but was more than two seconds down.

So by the end of the season I was no longer getting the nerves before races. Being unbeaten (at least in Wellington and Christchurch) over 1500m meant that the nervousness was supplanted by a certain arrogance and I could shift focus and chase times rather than victories.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Kapiti Running Tour

Gavin Thorley had a "brilliant" idea based around the concept of a cycling tour. What if you were to do the same sort of thing with runners? The short answer could've been "it's too hard" but it had to be put to the test, so he made it reality.

The inaugural event was held on Labour weekend 1980 and consisted of a prologue and five stages over three days covering a distance of  around 69 kilometres.


The prologue was a quick "sprint" around the block from the Paraparaumu Domain. No points for tour placings were on offer here but the winner wore the tour leaders yellow T-shirt (a jersey would've been too hot). There wasn't too much racing going on in this stage as we all had in mind the two reasonably lengthy stages coming up later in the day. Steve Hunt took the honours and got to wear the T-shirt for the first stage. However it turned out the T-shirt was too hot for the sunny conditions as well so it was ditched for the rest of the tour.

Stage 1: Paraparaumu - Raumati South

The first stage was 12km from the Paraparaumu Domain down to the Raumati South Hall and was all on the road. Throughout the tour points were awarded for your placing at the end of the stage and also for your placing, on time, over a timed section. On the first stage the timed section was over the last 3.2km so the tactics for this were simple: don't lose too much ground on the leaders and push it over the timed section to cross the line first and also win the timed section. I carried this plan out to perfection running the 9:40 for the last 3.2km and crossing the line first. The photo above is along Marine Parade, Paraparaumu Beach and is before the start of the timed section.

Stage 2: Raumati South - Paekakariki and back

The second stage was 10km  of beach and sand dune running which many people found difficult but I reveled in. Again the timed section was over the last few kilometres so the tactics remained the same. I knew my way around those sand hills pretty well so had no trouble following the course. Unfortunately others weren't quite so intimate with the area and when some wags thought they'd move a few of the marker flags around, many got lost. So although Steve Hunt and I managed to clear out from everyone else on this stage and get the best points hauls, the decision was made to erase the stage from the overall total. This was unfortunate for Steve and I as it gave Kerry Cunningham an opening, and he took it.

Stage 3: McKays Crossing - Reikorangi

 Just like a normal week's training the longest stage was reserved for Sunday. This was a 17.2km run from McKays Crossing over Waterfall Road and Valley Road to Paraparumu, up State Highway 1 to Waikanae then through to Reikorangi. The timed stage on this one was from Paraparaumu to Waikanae (possibly in an attempt to get people off the main road as quickly as possible) which complicated the tactics somewhat. The photo above is on the unsealed part of Waterfall Road.

Kerry Cunningham made his bid right from the start and disappeared into the distance along Valley Road. I picked up the pace over the timed section and managed to get a better time than Kerry but he held on to his lead through to the finish and ended up with the same number of points as me. Steve had a bad timed section and lost ground to all the others in the top five.

Stage 4: Akatarawa Hill Road

The Monday morning stage of 15km on the Akatarawa Hill Road had its timed section as the first part of the journey. The winner of that section was to be king of the mountains. Now I consider myself to be a pretty good hill climber but didn't have it that day. Steve and Kerry took off from the start with Steve reaching the summit first. Unfortunately Steve aggravated a sore knee on the way down and Kerry overtook him before the finish. My two third places meant that Kerry had closed to within one point of me after the stage.

Stage 5: Reikorangi - Paraparaumu

The final stage of 13km, like the first two, had its timed section at the end so it was back to the trusted tactics. Howard Gregory (who was in fourth place) made the pace for the first part of the stage but once we got to the timed section I ran away from everyone to complete the final 3.2km in 9:58. Kerry was second and Steve had nursed himself over the initial stages and finished strongly to hold on to third place from Howard Gregory and Alan.

My overall running time for the (long) weekend was 3:22:21 (which probably excludes the 10k for the cancelled cross country stage)

This picture was taken at the prizegiving and shows me receiving the cup from Dennis Pickup of Armoured Freightways who sponsored the event. Gavin Thorley, creator of the event, is in the centre.

Subsequent Years

1981 saw a repeat of the three day tour, and I won that too, winning all the stages apart form the final timed stage which was taken out by Neil Froude who held well back and really pushed it over the last 3.2km. My overall time that year was 3:52:21.

In 1982 the tour was shortened to two days with one less stage and a reduction in overall distance to 49km. I won all but one of the stages again. Alan was second and Howard Gregory third. It was the last tour I'd run.

Alan should've won the 1983 event but missed the start of the final stage by 16 minutes and had to salvage all he could by passing as many people as possible on that stage. He managed to work his way through a field of about 120 to get up to salvage 5th place. I'm afraid I can't remember who the winner was that year.

Recently Bruce Blair posted a photo of the 1989 tour featuring Martin McDonald, Patrick Ashkettle and Wayne Duckett. Apparently Martin won that year.

The tour no longer runs and probably the reason for this is "it's too hard".

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Shaw Baton Relay - Broken Hill

I have run the Shaw Baton Relay over numerous courses. Today it is well established at Battle Hill but when I first joined Kapiti Harriers in 1972 it was held in Johnsonville at the top of Old Coach Road. From there it moved to Waitangirua, Canon's Creek, Aotea and Broken Hill. It's the Broken Hill course where I did my best performances.

The picture here is of the start of the relay in 1980. Brian Turnbull is showing off his track speed by leading out but it was Dave Hatfield (with the beard) and Alan who would lead the race through at the first changeover. Scottish held out Wellington to win on this occasion with Dan O'Connell running the fastest time of the day clocking 6:09. Despite having Alan, Gavin Thorley and me in the top ten fastest times of the day, our team could only finish fourth.

1981 saw Victoria University take out the relay and in 1982 Wellington won.

By 1983 the Kapiti team had developed a bit more depth despite the retirement of Gavin Thorley. We organised our team starting off with our slowest runner and working up to our fastest, in an attempt to get the best out of everyone. By the time Alan started the second-to-last lap we had worked our way up to fourth, with Wellington well in front. I remember waiting at the last change with Dave Hatfield when Gary Weston-Webb handed over to Dallas McCallum with a huge lead. Dave said words to the effect that it was all over but I thought to myself "we'll see about that". Alan came storming through to better Dan O'Connell's course record by a second and put us in second place. The Broken Hill course consisted of  a flat section of a hundred metres or so followed by a substantial downhill which wasn't too steep so was very fast. Then there was the same sort of a climb back up to the plateau we started from, a bit more flat and then a little hump of a hill about 150m from the finish. I let myself go down the hill and dug it in on the climb to almost get in contact with Dallas. But Dallas being Dallas he just wouldn't let me make that contact. He held me off on the flat and then powered his way over the hump to give Wellington the win. I ran the fastest time of the day with 6:04.

1984 saw our Kapiti team finish third but by 1985 we were sure we had the team to win it. In addition to Alan and me we had Des Woods, Bruce Melrose, Bruce Odams (who'd run some really good 800s on the track) and Rob DeBique. An interesting facet of this race was that Wayne Duckett was down from New Plymouth that weekend and opened the relay for the Olympic F team (probably because his future wife was running for Olympic at the time) posting the fastest time of the day with 6:07. The two Bruces ran strongly on the first two laps but coming into the third Wellington were in the lead. Alan ran really well to give us the lead which we never relinquished. I remember that night Olympic put on a barn dance and our team went along as animals.

1985 saw us defend our title. The team was essentially the same but Michael Craig, another promising 800m runner was in the team for Des Woods, who'd headed off overseas. Bruce Odams took the opening leg and handed over to Bruce Melrose in second place but in a handy position. The second Bruce took the lead and Rob, Mike, Alan and I only increased our lead.

That was the last time the Shaw Baton was held at Broken Hill. From there it moved to Pauatahanui for a few years before becoming established at Battle Hill. As for the Kapiti team, we managed a third in 1988 and a second in 1989 (when the race was a Pauatahanui) but didn't feature in the results after that.

Sunday Training Himitangi - 1980

Sunday was the day for varied and interesting training runs. One time when it snowed we drove to the top of the Akatarawas and ran through the snow in the Tararua Forest park. On another occasion we ran the Rimutaka incline, over to Cross Creek and back again. On this day (it was the day after the Interprovicial Cross Country) we decided to drive up to Himitangi Beach and run through the sand dunes.

We took off north through the dunes just following our noses, with whoever was leading at the time deciding the route to take. After about an hour and a quarter of this we came across a guy from the army who told us they were exploding some ordnance there and we ought to keep clear. Apparently it was publicised in the papers and on the radio, but being form a bit further south we'd heard nothing of it. He told us to keep running "in that direction", which was north. We did this for about another half an hour when there was this great boom from the dunes and it was safe to turn back.

We ran straight back along the beach and were pretty well spent by the end as you can see in this photo of Alan.

However being totally spent is not an excuse for avoiding a posed photo which is what we did for this one on a sandhill near the carpark. In the photo are Gavin Thorley, Daryl Clark, Alan, Bill Raymond and me. Of interest to those in the know is the T-shirt Daryl is wearing. It's an Ekatahuna Wanderers T-shirt from that club established at a wedding breakfast in the Solway after a Wellington to Masterton relay.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Interprovincial Cross Country 1980

 1980 wasn't all bad as far as cross country was concerned. We did get a decent course to run on for the interprovincial. It was held at what used to be playing fields just north of McKays crossing, running over undulating farmland and including a decent stream crossing. It used to get very muddy there at times which is why I suspect the playing fields no longer exist.

Early in the race I led the field from Brian Ward and Alan with Richard Burne and Steve Denholm further back. Alan and I are avoiding excessive weight of mud on the feet by running without shoes.

At the same point on the second lap we had dropped Brian and Alastair Leslie is moving up on Alan. I'm looking a bit more serious here that on the previous lap.

On the final lap Richard Burne and Graham Macky have come through. But this picture only shows third fourth and fifth. I had got into a bit of a rut in the third lap and Dave Hatfield and Alastair had moved into the lead. They battled away until Alastair dug it in up the last hill, with some vocal encouragement from Murray McGaughran, and carried on to beat Dave by seven seconds. I overtook Richard in a quick last lap to match the previous year's third place.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Three Races at Trentham Memorial Park - 1980

It's no secret that the "Cross Country" course at Trentham Memorial Park is not one of my favourites. People tell me I should run really well on it because it's basically flat with a couple of humps over the stop bank and another dip or two. Sometimes it even has a stream crossing. The flatness of the majority of the course makes it basically a road run on the grass. This favours the type of runner who can get into a rhythm and stay there, whereas I prefer undulations to break up the rhythm (and give me a rest).

Therefore I was not particularly delighted to find that we had three races over the course in 1980: the Dorne Cup, Wellington Cross Country Champs and National Cross Coutry Champs.

Dorne Cup

This picture shows Alan trailing Kerry Cunningham after taking the hurdle before Barton's Bush. Behind him are Kevin Francis and Gary Weston-Webb. Alan did very well in this, his first big race as a senior, to overtake Kerry and finish fourth. The race was won by Paul Ballinger with Derek Froude second and Dave Hatfield third.

I was a bit further back in the field and can be seen here battling it out with Paul Morten. Steve Denholm is on the right at the fence with Dave Meek further back. I started badly in the race and pulled through somewhat to finish in 16th.

Wellington Cross Country Champs

In this picture Alan is heading Howard Gregory. Howard was always a notorious fast starter and often slipped back later in races. Alan got himself up to third place behind Derek Froude and Dave Hafield but slipped back to sixth by the finish.

Meanwhile further back in the field I battle it out with Steve Hunt. By the look of me, Steve has got the better of me at this point. Graham Macky and Gavin Thorley are further behind. Gavin pulled through to seventh place just behind Alan. I've got no idea where I finished because my diary entries finished before this race. I did get selected for the Wellington team for the Nationals, probably based on a good performance at the Interprovincial Cross Country.

National Cross Country.

Alan at the National Cross Country. The Waikato runner behind him is Malcolm Taylor.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

1979 - 1980 A Difficult Track Season

I'm running behind Dave Hatfield in this shot. When I first started running as a 14 year old, Dave was in my grade and he did considerably better than I did as a teenager. I still run with Dave at least once a week and mentioned to him that I had a photograph of me trailing him at Newtown Park. Because he had a beard at the time it meant that it was taken at the end of his student days, which I am taking to be the 1979-80 track season.

This was a very difficult season for me. I was fighting shin splints all season, which meant that I was frequently swimming in the sea (I was still living in Paraparaumu at the time) after my training runs, in an effort to keep them at bay. I was also doing repititions on the beach over unspecified distances. In later years I would incorporate similar workouts in my training but they would be over parkland.

In the competitive arena I probably raced far too much, sometimes racing on a Wednesday and a Saturday, with some Saturdays including two races. Early in the season I raced over 10,000m on the track with Gary Weston-Webb (aka Wally Weta) and Derek Froude. We took turns at taking a mile and it was my second turn with nine laps to run. At the end of those four laps I had opened up a gap on Wally and Derek so ran on to win in 32:34. But that wasn't the end of the day. I also ran a 1500 later and finished second in 4:05. My diary entry for the day says I got buggered. I wonder why.

I originally thought that the photo above was taken at the interprovincial track meeting in December but Dave noted that we'd be running in Wellington singlets if that was the case. On the day of the interprovincial I ran the 800 earlier in the afternoon and despite really struggling to run the first lap in 58 seconds, I came home well to win it in 1:56.7 which, at the time was a personal best. In the 1500m, which Dave also competed in, the race had ambled a bit with an easy 65 second first lap when Dave decided that this would make things too easy for me and picked up the pace. He couldn't shake me, however and I whipped past him down the home straight to win in 3:55.

So process of elimination places the photo at the Wellington Champs 1500m where, despite all the difficulties with training, managed to win my first Wellington title. The track champs that year were held over the Saturday and Sunday of a single weekend so to do the 800/1500 double as I had intended meant racing four times in two days. In the 1500 final I sat back over the initial stages but moved up into second with 900m to run after Dave had made a break on the leading bunch. I caught Dave with 400m to run and sat on him until the home straight where I outsprinted him for the victory. In the 800 the next day I was left for dead on the first lap, trailing the field by about 20m, after Brian Turnbull pushed it a bit with a 53 second opening lap. This meant that I had to get round the whole field if I had any hope of winning the race. I didn't quite manage it but finished the strongest of anyone to take third place in 1:57.7. Brian was first in 1:56.3 with Barry Mayo second in 1:57.4. Dave also won his first Wellington title by winning the 5000m on the Sunday.

The National Track Champs, held at Mount Smart, were again a disaster for me. The track there was just fantastic compared to Newtown Park but it seemed my mind was not on the job. In my 1500 heat I ended up running the first lap in 60 seconds and was second-to-last. This totally demoralised me. I didn't think that maybe some of the people in front of me may have been running above their abilities and I would be picking them up later. I just gave up. I was pretty angry with myself afterwards and resolved not to be eliminated in the heats again.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

20 Mile Gold Cup 1979

I don't know who in the Olympic Harrier club had the idea of running a race over 20 miles of cross country and road but they must've had that mindset typical of many a runner I know (and that would probably include myself) in that if you make it hard enough you'll start a legend.

The race started on Trentham Racecourse, wound over some paddocks out the back and returned via Miro Street. There were two railway crossings involved which tended to result in interesting tactics in some parts of the field.

Now I'm not a marathon runner and 20 miles is getting pretty close, although they do say the marathon doesn't start until that point, so I approached the race as more of a training run. Even so, as you can see from the newspaper clipping, I was right up with the lead. It wasn't long after this that I decided that if I was going to finish the race I would have to slow down, so I did. I stopped for a drink at the half way mark and then again at three quarters but still managed to finish tenth in 1:57:47. Derek ran 1:51:25 to win it.

Since then I have run a couple of three quarter marathon time trials and six times around Rarotonga, but the 20 mile Gold Cup would be the longest race I have run.

Wellington Road Champs 1979

Road racing has never been my strong point but on the odd occasion I'd pull one out of the bag. The Wellington Road Champs of 1979 was one of these.

The 16 kilometre course was four laps from in front of the Polo Ground in Miramar. It went up Darlington Road and came back down Miramar North Road to join Park Road, with Rotherham Terrace to complete the circuit. The weather on the day was about as nasty as you could get. There was a howling, freezing southerly blowing and the best way to warm up was to stay in the car.

After his exploits at the National Cross Country it was expected that my brother, Alan, would get a medal on the road but he failed to place. Mum had come along to spectate (sensibly staying in the car) and remarked after his race that we might as well go home since we weren't likely to pick up any loot on that day. I tended to agree with her.

I did my warm up by taking my clothes off in the car and running to the start line.

With a good tail wind from the start I found things reasonably easy and the hills round the back of the course suited me better than a lot of people. This meant that by the end of the first lap I found myself up with the leading bunch. At this stage Roger Robinson took off with the wind behind him and left a bunch of around ten people including Kerry Cunningham, Derek Froude, Graham Macky, Dave Hatfield, Alan Dowland, Paul Moreton and me, to fight it out for the minor places.

I was in a position I never expected to be and, although I was feeling quite good and led the bunch at times, I didn't push it. Slowly the bunch dwindled until by the beginning of the last lap there was only Kerry Cunningham, Derek Froude and me left. Derek and I dropped Kerry over the hills at the back of the course as Derek picked up the pace to try and drop me as well. I wouldn't let him go, getting some shelter into the headwind. Once we had turned the final corner I sprinted past Derek to take second place only one second in front.

So at the end of the day we did have some spoils to take home (but it did mean hanging around in the cold a bit longer for the prizegiving).

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

National Cross Country 1979 - Wingatui Racecourse

OK, so this isn't a picture of me, it's my brother, Alan. He finished second in the junior race behind Mike Gilchrist. I managed 44th in the senior race.

1979 was obviously a really wet winter. The Wellington Cross Country Champs were held on a course outside Masterton which was very difficult to get to due to parts of the road being flooded. Then in Dunedin the suburb of Abbotsford slipped down the hill not long before we arrived for the cross country.

The Wellington course was very hilly and very muddy. This meant that it was difficult to stay upright whilst running in bare feet and I finished back in 11th place. Alan also ran in bare feet in the junior race but he was much better at it than I was and finished third. This was despite having traveled over to Gladstone the night before and being served up a rather large breakfast by our Aunty, Jocelyn.

11th place (and probably my earlier third) was good enough for me to finally get selected for a team to the Cross Country Nationals.

You may think that the photo above was taken at a particularly muddy part of the course, but you'd be wrong. It was like that the whole way round. Most of the course had been run over by horses and as a consequence, every stride you took went in to a different depth. Alan didn't seem to have too much difficulty with this but I just couldn't handle it. I remember putting on a bit of a sprint towards the end to hold out Colin Morris and having a smile on my face as I crossed the finish line. I was hardly stuffed but couldn't run any faster.

I remember the trip being lots of laughs with the main wag being Robbie Irvine. Unfortunately I had a bruised rib and whenever I laughed I ended up in a lot of pain. So the lots of laughs also meant lots of pain. What were those tears in my eyes from?

Interprovincial Cross Country 1979

I was very inconsistent with my performances in 1979. Looking back at a diary I kept, I can now see that my performances were inconsistent because my training was inconsistent. However, back then I was trying to find excuses by checking out my biorhythms. After doing all the calculations from by birth date up until the present, the biorhythms showed that on the 30th June I would be experiencing a "triple critical". This is meant to be the worst of all possible combinations and perhaps it would be better just to stay in bed.

It just happened that on that day I was scheduled to run at the interprovincial cross country meeting between Wellington, West Coast North Island (which, in those days, included Taranaki) and Hawkes Bay.

I had run pretty poorly in the Dorne Cup (finishing 13th) and even worse in the Vosseler Shield so it is a wonder that I got selected for the team at all. I had either got bonus points for a good Shaw Baton or there were a lot of people selected who pulled out of the team.

The race was on a farm a few kilometres out of Fielding. It was predominantly a flat course, with a few undulations, and was hard and fast. It was also all grass so I was able to run in the preferred bare feet. My legs felt so free running barefoot that, although I felt as if I was taking it easy, I found myself up with the leading bunch. This was unheard of for me so when Bruce Galloway (who'd won the Dorne Cup that year) put the pace on I stayed back with the rest of the bunch. By the final lap I thought it was about time I had a go at winning the race but putting in the extra effort gave me the stitch. I held on to third place though and was pleased to beat my mentor Gavin Thorley (but not by much).

After that performance I decided that biorhythms don't mean a thing and gave up worrying over them.

This race seemed to start a trend for later years where I would struggle through the Dorne Cup, usually improve on the Vosseler and come out with a great performance at the interprovincial cross country. Unfortunately, with a couple of notable exceptions, the performance in this race didn't usually translate into a great performance at the Wellington Champs.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Masterton January 1979

Handicap meetings (which included cycle races) were a popular part of the athletics scene up until the 1980s. The Masterton Athletic Club held a meeting every year on Wellington anniversary weekend. The track at Queen Elizabeth park was an unusual shape with a home straight which was about 60m long and all the rest of the track a curve. The field for the 1500m was a very strong one including (pictured above) Dan O'Connell, me, Chris Lumley, Kerry Cunningham and Ian Jamieson. Our scratch group had overtaken all of the front markers after two laps, probably because the hadicapper wasn't expecting us to go quite so fast.

Dan led for most of the way until Kerry put in a challenge heading into the final lap. Dan took him back again with about 150m left in the race and I stuck with him. Once into the short straight I gave it everything and just slipped past to win in 3:56.4.

1979 Wellington Champs

Once again I failed to win the Wellington Champs 1500. This time it was Kerry Cunningham who turned out the victor after I fought with Brian Ward for most of the race and destroyed both of us. The Nationals were in Christchurch and I failed to make the final again. This was a shame because the movie "On the Run" was being filmed there with a focus on John Walker. In the movie you can see Brian Ward and Ian Jamieson running in their Wellington colours.

On the Track 1976-1978

Unfortunately this post is just boring text.

It's funny how your memory can shuffle events out of order over the years and I thought the next photos I intended to post were from my first year in the senior ranks on the track. However I did have a little diary I kept for 1979 which showed that the race actually occurred in that year.

So now I have sorted out the order of events in my head I thought I'd write them down so that things don't get twisted again.

1976-1977 Track Season

I had done some athletics at school competing in all manner of running events but also managed to represent Kapiti College at high jump (which was a pretty good effort considering how short I was). I looked at the caliber of athletes in various events and decided that my best bet for representing Wellington would be the steeplechase. Having been quite good at gymnastics at primary school and with my high jump abilities the steeplechase should have been a cinch. It was with this sort of confidence I approached the first water jump in my first attempt at the discipline. The water didn't look that wide so I thought I could clear it and keep my shoes dry so I got a good spring off the hurdle, cleared the water and nearly collapsed on the track from the impact on landing. Needless to say all the water jumps I've done subsequently have been more orthodox.

True to plan I was good enough to get selected for the Wellington team for the National Athletics Champs in Hamilton at the steeplechase. I was also selected for the 5000m (probably because I was going anyway). I didn't do particularly well in either race. In fact I was lapped by John Park and Dave Hatfield as they battled it out down the home straight in the 5000.

1977-1978 Track Season

I didn't really fancy the steeplechase that much and had another look at who was competing in what event on the track. In the 1500m I judged that I should, on my day, be able to beat pretty much anyone in the Wellington centre apart from Rod Dixon (Nelson being part of the Wellington centre in those days). I was encouraged in my thinking with a good performance of 1:58.5 over 800m a week before the Nationals in the previous season. However, my best performance over 1500 was only 4:08.

My main aim for the season was to break 4 minutes for the 1500, which seemed a tall order, but I chipped away at it, often having to make the pace myself in the notorious Newtown Park conditions. I finally got there at a league meeting in January with a time of 3:57.8 after which settled back and raced the races rather than pushing for good times.

It was a week or two before the Wellington Champs when I lined up for a race containing all the contenders for the title. I held on while Dan O'Connell and Noel Ingram set a pretty good pace and then blitzed both of them over the last 100m. The finishing kick surprised everyone, including myself.

Lining up for the Wellington Champs I thought I could win it. However, I knew (or thought I knew) what I was capable of and when Rex Dowding took off from the start and ran the first lap in 58 seconds I was left floundering in his wake. Noel Ingram had stuck closer to Rex and overtook him with just over a lap to go leaving me well behind. I overtook Rex and gained a lot on Noel over the last 300m but couldn't catch him. Still it was a good personal best of 3:53.6 (behind the winning time of 3:52.4) and a 15 second improvement over the season. Over the rest of my track career I would improve another 10 seconds.

Again I was selected for the Nationals but failed to progress past the heats.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Bays Relay 1977

1977 was my last year as a junior and I had made it my goal to be selected for the Wellington team for the National Cross Country. To achieve this goal I had asked Gavin Thorley to help me out with coaching and he gave me a lot of interesting activities to include in my training which included gradual build ups and breathing exercises. On the whole the season didn't go all that well until the Wellington Cross Country Champs where everything clicked into place (as the training programme intended) and I finished in sixth place. I felt sure this would get me a place in the Wellington team, but it was not to be. Due to my inconsistency I was only selected as a reserve and didn't travel with the team.

The Bays Relay was the following week and I was running the first lap from Island Bay to Lyall Bay. I was determined to show the selectors what a mistake they had made and ran up with the leaders as far as I could. Unfortunately I didn't show the selectors anything as I blew up over the finishing stages.

The photo was taken just after reaching Lyall Bay and I was really struggling at this point.

However I did eventually succeed in making a Wellington team that year. This was the team to the Road Nationals which were held in Mosgiel and consisted of a single five mile lap around a huge, flat square. The photo below must've been taken fairly early on in the race because I look reasonably relaxed. I can remember being completely spent by the end.

Note: this was so long ago things were in black and white.